BLOOMFIELD, NJ — After attending a series of workshops at the National Walking Summit, in St. Paul, Minn., Bloomfield Department of Health Director Karen Lore sat down for an interview. The summit was held Sept. 13 to 15 and Lore had been awarded a Partners for Health scholarship to attend the meetings.
“I was really surprised what they tried to do to create safer streets for walking and biking,” she said about a field trip she took during the summit into the host city of St. Paul where she saw a biking and pedestrian crossover that had been built over a four-lane bridge spanning the Mississippi River. Meters had been installed in the pavement to count the number of bikes using the crossover. Lore said the experience for pedestrians was a pleasant and safe way to travel where they lived and shopped.
“That was beneficial to see those real-life usages,” she said. “It’s a very cold area of the country but there is a lot of activity in the infrastructure.”
Poor planning was also on the St. Paul agenda.
“There was an apartment complex across from a park,” Lore said. “But there was no access to the park. People had to cross a dangerous thoroughfare. On paper, the site looked great. But in reality, no one was using the park.”
The thrust of the summit, Lore said, was that people were more likely to adhere to a healthy lifestyle when it is easily accessible to them.
“Create the environment and people will walk,” she said.
The workshops Lore attended stressed incorporating health into all municipal planning.
“It was a mindset that health has to be involved in policy,” she said. “Health can’t be in a silo.”
Some of that concern was how how can a municipality allow its senior population to “age in place” so that they can remain in their own homes.
“If they can walk to the store or access public transportation, they can stay in their communities,” she said.
But pedestrian activity also means pedaling the two-wheeler. Lore said there are several bike/share programs in the NY-metropolitan area. This is where a person can rent a bike at one location and pedal it to another. But some destinations are more more popular than others and this leads to “no parking” at bike racks. Lore said GPS programs are now being initiated to let bike riders know when to use another bike depot.
“Driving is seen as status,” she said. “Now there is a shift to walkable communities being desirable.”She also had walking facts.
How many average walking steps equal one mile? Answer: 2,000.
How many steps a day must a person walk to NOT be considered “sedentary?” Answer: More than 5,000.
Which industrialized country does the most walking? Answer: Australia, with an average of 9,695 steps a day.
Which industrialized country does the least walking? Answer: The United States, with an average of 5,117 steps a day.
Lore said that in 1970, two out of three children walked to school. Today, that is one out of seven.
“We are trying to get kids to walk to school,” Lore said.
She said a way to do this is to have “the walking school bus.” This is a Pied Piper approach to getting children walking to school with a group being led by an adult.